Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A "GPS" for molecules

19.12.2014

In everyday life, the global positioning system (GPS) can be employed to reliably determine the momentary location of one en route to the desired destination. Scientists from the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry of the University of Bonn have now developed a molecular "GPS" with which the whereabouts of metal ions in enzymes can be reliably determined. Such ions play important roles in all corners of metabolism and synthesis for biological products. The "molecular GPS" is now being featured in the journal "Angewandte Chemie" .

There would be no life on our planet without enzymes. These molecules, control and enable biochemical reactions ranging from digestion to the duplication of genetic information. "Enzymes are spatially complex structures which can have multiple folds, sheets and loops", says Prof. Dr. Olav Schiemann from the Institute for Physical and Theoretical Chemistry of the University of Bonn.


A GPS for molecules: Prof. Dr. Olav Schiemann (left) and doctoral student Dinar Abdullin with an image of the enzyme azurine.

(c) Photo: Barbara Frommann/Uni Bonn

In the reaction center of such a "protein knot", which is known as the "active center", is often one or more metal ions. This means that the substance which is to be changed by a chemical reaction attaches to or close to the metal ion. The ion facilitates the breakage or reformation of one or more bonds in the attached substance and the conversion into a new substance arises through the enzyme. Such conversions take place constantly in our stomach, for example, where food is broken down into substances which our body can easily absorb.

Scientists are examining how such essential enzymes work. To do this, they must precisely know how the individual atoms are arranged in these biomolecules. "When we know the whereabouts of the metal ion in an enzyme, we can better understand exactly how the reactions proceed," says Prof. Schiemann. His working group has now determined the position of the active center in an enzyme using a novel method which is reminiscent in principle of the global positioning system (GPS) with which automobile navigation systems work.

Like the maze of traffic during rush hour

"The structure of enzymes is frequently, at first glance, just as confusing as the maze of traffic during rush hour," chuckles the physical chemist from the University of Bonn. Similarly to how an individual car is nearly impossible to make out in a large amount of traffic, the metal ion "hides" in the numerous coils and folds of the enzyme. Nonetheless, the position of the vehicle - and also that of the metal ion - can be reliably determined with GPS. Several satellites orbit our planet and indicate through the transit time of signals the distance to a certain point on the earth, for example, a car. The site where the distance spheres of the various satellites intersect is where the car to be located.

The "satellites" consist of the spin labeled amino acid cysteine

The physical chemists from the University of Bonn proceeded similarly. "Our satellites are spin labels," explains doctoral student Dinar Abdullin. These are small organic molecules which have an unpaired electron and which are stable. The researchers distributed six of these "molecular satellites" in their enzyme model "azurine" - a blue protein with a copper ion in the center. Using computer programs, the scientists first tracked the "orbits" of the tiny satellites in the coils of the enzyme. They then determined the distance between the satellites and the metal ion using a spectroscopic method, namely PELDOR, which acts like a ruler on a molecular level. "Similar to the GPS, we were able to precisely determine the position of the active center in the enzyme from this," says Abdullin.

The tool kit of physical chemistry has now gained an elegant additional method. "We developed the method for basic research but it can also be used to clarify the structure of other enzymes," says Prof. Schiemann. A better understanding of substance conversions at active centers is ultimately also the foundation, for example, for industrial drug manufacturing.

Publication: Abdullin D., Florin N., Hagelueken G. and Schiemann O.: EPR based Approach for the Localization of Paramagnetic Metal Ions in Biomolecules, Angewandte Chemie, DOI: 10.1002/anie.201410396

Media contact information:

Prof. Dr. Olav Schiemann
Institute of Physical and Theoretical
Chemistry of the University of Bonn
Tel. ++49-(0)228-732989
E-Mail: schiemann@pc.uni-bonn.de

Johannes Seiler | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Further information:
http://www.uni-bonn.de/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Bare bones: Making bones transparent
27.04.2017 | California Institute of Technology

nachricht Link Discovered between Immune System, Brain Structure and Memory
26.04.2017 | Universität Basel

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Bare bones: Making bones transparent

27.04.2017 | Life Sciences

Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions

27.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

From volcano's slope, NASA instrument looks sky high and to the future

27.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>